ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues will play the Minnesota Wild on Thursday without captain David Backes, who sustained a foot injury after being hit by a teammate's shot Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. Backes was seen with a walking boot on his left foot.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Backes could be out for the rest of the regular season but expects him back in time for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's an opportunity for guys to step forward," Hitchcock said.
Wild defenseman Christian Folin will make his NHL debut. Folin, who two weeks ago was playing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, was generally considered the top college free agent available following the season. He had interest from nearly every team in the NHL but chose the Wild over the Philadelphia Flyers, signing a two-year entry-level contract with Minnesota on March 31.
The Wild have burned the first year of Folin's contract and he's not eligible for the playoffs (he signed after the NHL Trade Deadline), but Minnesota will get a good glimpse of the future Thursday and potentially again Sunday against the Nashville Predators.
"I'm very excited. Been looking forward to it for a couple of weeks now," Folin said. "Of course I'm going to be nervous. After all, it's just another hockey game, I just have to try to keep it simple, like I've been doing all year."
Folin's ascension to the NHL is quite the story. After coming to the United States from Sweden, Folin was playing junior hockey for the Austin (Minn.) Bruins of the North American Hockey League as recently as two years ago. He played two seasons there and two in Lowell before signing with the Wild.
"I didn't think that would be a possibility," Folin said. "I had two great years at Lowell and the coaching staff really prepared me for this. I'm looking forward to tonight."
Minnesota, which clinched a playoff berth and the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference on Tuesday, will shuffle its lineup a bit. Folin and forwards Dany Heatley and Mike Rupp are expected to play. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon and forwards Stephane Veilleux and Justin Fontaine will sit. Goalie John Curry will start, the fifth to start a game for the Wild this season. Curry hasn't played in a NHL game since Jan. 16, 2010, when he allowed five goals on 14 shots as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"He's a battler," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "He doesn't have the size of a [Ilya] Bryzgalov, I don't know that technique is his strength. He's a gamer, is kind of how I'd put it."
Here are the projected lineups: